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Out of Africa

Isak Dinesen

Book Three, Visitors to the Farm: From ""Big Dances" to "Old Knudsen"

Book Two, A Shooting Accident on the Farm: From "Wamai" to "A Kikuyu Chief"

Book Three, Visitors to the Farm: From ""Big Dances" to "Old Knudsen", page 2

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Summary

Big Dances

The greatest social functions on the farm are big native dances, called Ngomas. As many as fifteen hundred guests come to one. During them, young Kikuyu men and women dress in ceremonial attire and dance ritualistically in the center of a circle while drums beat around them. Ngomas take place during the day and at night. The narrator finds the nighttime ones more magical, as they only take place under a full moon and last for many hours.

Once during a night Ngoma at the farm, a group of young Masai men appear, apparently drawn by the drums. Their arrival is greeted apprehensively, since the Kikuyu and the Masai are not always on friendly terms. Furthermore, the colonial government has outlawed group Kikuyu and Masai dances, because of past problems. The dance initially proceeds with no problem, but suddenly everything breaks apart and spears starts waving. When it is over, three Kikuyus and one Masai are seriously hurt. Their injuries are cared for and healed. The injured Masai remains hidden on the farm until he is well enough to go home.

A Visitor from Asia

One time some of the leading local Muslims, including an Indian merchant, and Farah beg the narrator to entertain a visiting Muslim High Priest. The Muslims have gathered one hundred rupees, which the narrator is to present to the High Priest as custom necessitates.

When the High Priest arrives, the narrator gives him the rupees. She and he then sit together on the lawn, but they cannot speak as they have no common language. Despite the silence, they pantomime and the narrator so enjoys his company that she gives him the pelt from a lion recently killed. In return, the High Priest gives her a pearl ring.

Several months later, the narrator receives a request from a prince in India who has heard about her large gray dogs from the High Priest and wants to buy one.

The Somali Women

Farah lives with several woman—his wife and several of her female relatives. They all are Somali and therefore Muslims. As such, they behave more conservatively than other African women. They carefully maintain their virginity until after they are married. They wear dresses and conceal their bodies. Their families arrange all marriages according to class and after negotiating a bride price. They live in a world that is slightly isolated by their gender.

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